The bumper potato season has left many farmers in Rajshahi in crisis as a low market price forces them to keep their stocks in cold storage for longer than normal.
In line with previous years, over 70% of potatoes are supposed to be released from 26 cold storages in the district at this time, but more than half remain stockpiled.
Rahim Uddin, a producer of Bargachhi village under Paba upazila, said the present market price is unexpected for the traders and growers and is discouraging them from lifting their preserved goods from the storages.
An 86-kilogram potato sack is being sold at Tk600 to 650 in different wholesale markets and other village level growth centres at present, which is half the total production and storage cost of Tk1200 to 1300. In this situation, the farmers are incurring loss of Tk600 to 650 per bags.
For the last couple of years, many farmers have been encouraged to cultivate potato with the promotion of modern farming systems, including a hybrid variety.
“Most of the farmers were seen opting for high yielding potato varieties and adopting scientific methods of cultivation, resulting in bumper yields,” said Abu Bakkar Ali, president of Rajshahi Cold Storage Owners Association.
“But the potato growers incurred losses this year as they did not get fair price of their produce,” he said, adding that to overcome the loss, he was seeking government intervention for exporting potato.
There was a bumper production of potato in Rajshahi last harvesting season due to favourable climatic conditions. But the low price of potato could not even cover production cost, Abu Bakkar added.
“The farmers are not happy over the market price. Because of inadequate preservation facilities in the region, they are forced to sell their potatoes at a low price, incurring a loss,” he also said, adding that the future cultivation of potato in the region will be adversely impacted as growers will surely lose all interest in cultivating the crop again, he said.
Many of the farmers had cultivated potato after borrowing money from different banks, money lenders and NGOs. “With this odd situation, how they will repay the loans?” he asks.
Abu Bakker said the government should take immediate measures: “We have no way but to protect the interests of the producers to boost the agriculture sector”, he said.
Muhammad Ali Sarker, owner of Raj Cold Storage, said, “The government is initiating many safety-net programmes including VGF, VGD, OMS, FW and so on for vulnerable group development. It will be a great solution if government includes potato in the programmes which will help the farmers to get a reasonable price,” he said.